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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE    ARTISTIC    LIFE
merely to indicate the contour of shapes of things, acquire a bold freedom of their own, so in Chinese architecture the pillars in walls, or rafters and beams in roofs, instead of being hidden in shame* are frankly glorified and become important elements in giving structural form to the buildings. In Chinese buildings the whole structural framework is, as it were, purposefully revealed in full to us. We simply like to see these structural lines, as indicating the basic pattern of the building, as we like to see the rhythmic sketches of outline in painting which stand for the substance of objects for us. For that reason, the wooden framework is usually revealed in house-walls> and the rafters and beams are left visible both inside and outside the house.
This arises from a well-known principle in calligraphy, the principle of "framework/' or thienchia. Among the various strokes of a character, we usually choose a horizontal or a vertical stroke, or sometimes an enveloping square, which is regarded as giving support to the rest, and this stroke we must make powerfully and make longer, more obvious than the others. Having obtained support in this main stroke, the other strokes will cluster round it or take their point of departure from it. Even in the design of a group of buildings, there is a principle of axis, as there is an axis in most Chinese characters. The whole city-planning of Peiping, old Peking, one of the most beautiful cities of the world, is due very largely to an invisible axis of several miles running north and south from the outermost front gate, right across the Emperor's throne, to the Coal Hill central pavilion and the Drum Tower behind. This axis is clearly visible in the character for "middle" or chung, cp , and in other characters, like HJ ^ 3g ff: ^.
Perhaps more important than the principle of a straight axis is the use of curves, wavy lines, or irregular rhythmic lines to contrast with the straight lines. This is most clearly seen in the Chinese roofs. Every Chinese temple or palace building or mansion is based, in its essence, upon the combination or contrast of the straight vertical lines of the pillars and the curved lines of the roof. The roof itself contains a contrast between the straight line at the ridge and the sagging Hne below. This is due to our training in calligraphy in which we